Councilors express concern for cleanup at former Lunt Silversmith property in Greenfield

  • Part of the former Lunt Silversmith property at 298 Federal St. in Greenfield, pictured from the front parking lot. STAFF FILE PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • Part of the former Lunt Silversmith property at 298 Federal St. in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • In response to concerns raised by councilors and local experts on environmental safety, City Council voted Wednesday to have one of its subcommittees further review a request to authorize the sale of the former Lunt Silversmith property at 298 Federal St. in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/18/2021 5:19:32 PM

GREENFIELD — In response to concerns raised by councilors and local experts on environmental safety, City Council voted Wednesday to have one of its subcommittees further review a request to authorize the sale of the former Lunt Silversmith property.

Motions to declare the property at 298 Federal St. as surplus and authorize the mayor’s sale of the property were tabled at last month’s City Council meeting after Precinct 3 Councilor Virginia “Ginny” DeSorgher urged councilors to vote “no” until remediation issues are addressed.

“As evidence shows, further remediation needs to be done and a hard and fast plan for perpetual monitoring of air quality, wells, catch basins and soil samples needs to be in place for the facility,” DeSorgher said to councilors on Oct. 20. “Lastly, as this actually is a residential treatment facility, it is imperative that the AUL — authorization use limitations — designate this facility as residential and that it be completely remediated to a residential standard.”

The property, which has been leased to 401 Liberty LLC since 2015, has an agreement that gives the tenant — 401 LLC — the option to purchase. The Springfield-based LLC subleases the property to the Behavioral Health Network and Clinicial & Support Options (CSO).

“(401 Liberty has) a contract,” said Mayor Roxann Wedegartner. “It has come to pass now that that contract is before the city of Greenfield to execute the sale.”

She explained that the city took the property in a tax taking, and therefore — acknowledging her memo prior to the meeting indicating she withdrew her request for City Council approval — was allowed to sell the property without council approval.

“In addition to that, the city was required to … clean up (the environmental pollution), as the now-owner of the property,” she said. “They did so, through a number of several substantial brownfield grants … so the cleanup has been ongoing for several years.”

Wedegartner said the city has a licensed site professional — O’Reilly, Talbot & Okun Associates Inc. (OTO) — that, in addition to completing past remediation of the site, conducts inspections every several years, as is legally required.

“What needs to be done environmentally has been done and is being done on a regular basis,” she said.

Still, there was concern among councilors and residents alike for whether the site had been adequately cleaned.

In particular, resident Glen Ayers, a former health agent for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG), said that in reviewing the environmental reports available on the state Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) website, he questioned OTO’s use of the commercial/industrial indoor threshold for measurements, rather than the residential threshold.

For comparison, the state DEP threshold for residential indoor levels of trichloroethylene (TCE) is 0.4 micrograms per cubic meter, while the commercial/industrial indoor threshold is 1.8 micrograms per cubic meter.

“Why aren’t residential standards being used?” Ayers asked. “Why were people allowed to enter that building and inhabit it while it was highly contaminated, and while there was an intrusion of TCE into the building?”

In 2019, the last year of sample collection at the Kenwood Street facility (which included samples taken in March, June, September and December), the indoor air exposure of TCE at the facility did not exceed the commercial/industrial threshold; it did, however, exceed the residential indoor threshold.

Samples collected in various parts of the facility ranged between 0.48 and 1.6 micrograms per cubic meter.

According to MassDEP, up to 0.4 micrograms per cubic meter is considered “normal.” Both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and MassDEP have a long-term exposure guideline of 2 micrograms per cubic meter, which is “set well below levels expected to result in health effects and is designed to protect the most sensitive individuals.” Still, the website says, steps should be taken to reduce TCE levels.

“The goal of site cleanup is to make it safe,” Ayers said, adding his concerns for comments in the report that indicated off-site contamination — an indicator that remediation systems weren’t working. “The real goal of cleanup is zero detection.”

Precinct 9 Councilor Norman Hirschfeld said it is the council’s duty to “make sure it’s safe and clean” before selling the property.

“We have to really clean it up,” he said. “We have to get it tested to make sure it’s cleaned up for the future of all the residents who are going to live there and work there.”

At Large Councilor Ashli Stempel-Rae said the issue was not one councilors would find a solution to Wednesday night, and suggested sending the matter back to the Economic Development Committee for further review and discussion.

City Council President Penny Ricketts agreed.

“At the end of the day, we all want the same thing,” she said. “We want to know the property is clean; we want to make the sale; we want the tax money for it. We want the same thing.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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